Growing Our Economy

Making Wisconsin a Great Place to Live and Work


In the four years before Governor Scott Walker took office, Wisconsin lost nearly 134,000 jobs and, at the low point, unemployment topped out at 9.2 percent.  Our state faced a $3.6 billion budget deficit and our business community lacked the confidence that our state was headed in the right direction.

We made tough, but prudent, decisions and addressed the root of the problem.  We enacted structural reforms to build a solid foundation for our future.

Today, the unemployment rate has dropped to 6.3 percent and new business formations are at pre-recession levels and climbing.  Wisconsin has a $670 million budget surplus, and we have changed the opinion of our state’s employers—for the better.  In 2010, a mere 10 percent of employers said our state was headed in the right direction; in 2013, 94 percent said Wisconsin is headed in the right direction.

Creating jobs is about more than just a campaign promise.  It is about helping improve the lives of families all across our great state.  Every new job is more than a statistic.  It is another family with someone working, which means fewer worries about how to put meals on the table, make a mortgage payment, or put clothes on the backs of their kids.

Because our tough decisions lead to a surplus and an improving fiscal outlook, we provided nearly $1 billion in tax relief for Wisconsin families and businesses, including a $650 million income tax cut.  This is the largest income tax cut in 14 years, and the largest income tax rate reductions go to those making between $15,000 and $50,000.  Nearly 80 percent of the tax cut goes to people who fit President Obama’s definition of the middle class.

Keeping hard-earned money in the hands of those who earn it means they, in turn, can spend their money the way they choose and help grow our economy.

Uncertainty with government regulations and tax policy can deter business owners from wanting to make investments in their company.  Lack of investment and expansion means fewer jobs are being created, leaving more households with a family member out of work.

We have created a sense of certainty for the business community by reducing the overall tax burden in the state, signing a budget rated credit positive by Moody’s, passing aggressive tort reform legislation, and creating a state agency whose sole focus is economic development.  Additionally, for the first time in state history, we deposited money into our rainy day fund in back-to-back years.  Our reforms have created certainty for job creators, giving them the confidence to hire, expand, and grow in Wisconsin.

All of these changes have made our business climate friendlier.  In 2010, Wisconsin ranked 41st in CEO Magazine’s Best States for Business list.  After our first Jobs Session, which passed some of the most aggressive pro-jobs legislation in the country with bipartisan support, we moved up to 24th.  The 17-spot leap was the largest one-year improvement of any state in the history of the rankings.  In 2012, we jumped four more spots to 20th and this year we are ranked number 17.

Wisconsin broke back into the Top U.S. Business Climates list from Site Selection Magazine last year coming in at number 13.  This was the first time, since 1998, Wisconsin was ranked among the top 25 states.

Governor Walker’s 2013-15 Biennial Budget invests in key economic development initiatives aimed at improving the business climate and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation.  During the Governor’s Talk with Walker tour, he listened to job creators from around the state.  Job creators said they needed more access to capital, and they encouraged him to continue working to improve perceptions about the state’s business climate, so they can continue creating jobs in communities all across the state.

According to studies from the Kauffman Foundation, almost all net new job growth comes from new companies and business ventures, and the Governor believes it is important to continue investing in entrepreneurship in Wisconsin.  The budget provides $8 million over the biennium to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to continue to build the following programs:

  • Seed Accelerator Program:  Aimed at increasing the number of startups in the state by providing matching funds to communities and partners to establish business model programs to assist entrepreneurs in taking ideas to company formation.  These local entrepreneurship programs will provide participants with tools and guidance to start new businesses, including mentorship, business planning, and networking with key contacts and potential investors.
  • Capital Catalyst Program:  Provides access to financing for entrepreneurs who have successfully completed an accelerator program.  WEDC has already made investments with local partners through this program, including the Innovation Fund of Western Wisconsin in Eau Claire and the Whitewater Community Development Authority.
  • VETransfer Grant: Allocates an additional $500,000 grant to VETransfer through the Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Trust Fund.  VETransfer is a business accelerator for U.S. Veterans looking to start their own businesses. 

We are going to build upon these successes and create a business environment which will help create jobs, attract successful businesses, grow existing businesses, and keep Wisconsin moving forward.